“I SAW THE TANKS LINED UP READY TO INVADE POLAND.”

Clare Hollingworth’s 100th birthday was celebrated in an article appearing in the BBC News, Hong Kong, video from Telgraph and in ABC News Online. Ms. Hollingworth was responsible for the biggest scoop of the 20th century.

Having worked for London’s Daily Telegraph for less than a week, she was asked to go to Poland. She reported at the end of August, 1939: “I saw the tanks lined up ready to invade Poland.” She was just ahead of them.

She was sent by the newspaper to cover the story and chose to travel to the south of Poland, a part of the country she knew quite well. There she was when the Germans invaded. She called the British Embassy in Warsaw to tell them. They doubted the veracity of what she had to say, so she held the telephone out the window capturing the din created by Nazi aircraft and tanks to prove that the Germans were indeed invading Poland.

And so was to begin the German takeover of much of Europe, and Clare Hollingworth was right in the thick of things. Max and I both wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Around the same time in France, my husband Max quit the university in Aix-en-Provence where he was studying to be a dentist. Rumors of impending war had already spread to his country. Though underage, he was able to join the elite Alpine Ski Troop division of the French army. Due to a military course he had taken while attending Jesuit school in Nice, he entered the army as an officer.

As a lieutenant, he trained his troop, and his men were eager to fight the enemy. But before they could, his commander announced to him that the war was over. France had lost. “How could we lose when we didn’t even fire a shot?” Max exclaimed in anger and frustration. He vowed he would not give up the fight until he saw France free again.

This was a terrible defeat and yet a new beginning for Max. He escaped to the south of France where he went to visit his godfather who suggested they get in touch with Winston Churchill, an occasional neighbor in Cap d’Antibes. His godfather called London and told Churchill of Max’s fluency in German and Italian, his extraordinary upbringing by a retired Colonel of the Austrian Cavalry and excellent education by the Jesuits as well as his experience in leadership as a lieutenant in the French Chasseurs Alpins. He asked if Churchill could use him, and Churchill told Max’s godfather to send him to England.

In this way, Max began his new life as Churchill’s Secret Agent. His memories written in French in the 1990s, were intended to help get rid of his awful nightmares. But when I read some of his writings, I saw what the world has since embraced by making our book a National Bestseller: an extraordinary personal story of single-minded battle against the forces of evil.–Linda Ciampoli

 

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